The Padres announced they’ve signed Vince Velasquez to a minor league contract. He’ll be selected to the big league roster to start a game against the Cardinals this weekend, per the team. They’ll need to make active and 40-man roster moves before his start. In related news, San Diego placed lefty Blake Snell on the 10-day injured list due to a left adductor groin strain.
Velasquez becomes the second recently-released pitcher added by San Diego in as many days. The Friars signed reliever Ross Detwiler to a major league deal yesterday, just a few days after he was cut loose by the Marlins. Those moves come a month after San Diego picked up Jake Arrieta once he was released by the Cubs. It has been an “all hands on deck” approach to a pitching staff that has been beaten up badly by injuries throughout the year.
It hasn’t been an especially productive season for Velasquez, who has only managed 81 2/3 innings over 21 appearances (including 17 starts). He’s pitched to a career-worst 5.95 ERA in that time despite a 23.5% strikeout rate and 10.8% swinging strike percentage that each check in right around the league average.
That’s mostly a reflection of Velasquez’s walk and home run troubles, issues that plagued him throughout his six years in Philadelphia. He’s doled out free passes to a lofty 12.5% of opponents, the highest single-season mark of his career. And Velasquez’s always low ground-ball rate has dipped to 33.3% this year, nearly ten percentage points below the league average. That’s contributed to his serving up seventeen homers (1.87 HR/9), although the San Diego front office is surely hopeful a move to a less homer-friendly ballpark could alleviate that somewhat.
Velasquez’s recent struggles led to his release from Philadelphia yesterday. At this stage of the season, competent big league starting pitching is almost impossible to acquire, so the Friars moved quickly to add the 29-year-old once he passed through waivers. Velasquez had been on the injured list due to blister troubles at the time of his release, but he’d already made a pair of minor league rehab appearances. The team’s announcement that he’ll start this weekend suggests he’s healthy and ready to step back into MLB action.
Logging some innings will be critical for a San Diego team that has lost a pair of starters to the IL in recent days. Chris Paddack landed on the shelf earlier this week, and Snell joins him after leaving his start on Sunday night after just eleven pitches. The Friars were down to Arrieta, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove in the rotation, so Velasquez steps in to add some length and hopefully make a few productive starts down the stretch. The Phillies will be on the hook for the balance of his $4MM salary, with the Padres’ paying him just the prorated portion of the league minimum.
As with yesterday’s Detwiler signing, picking up Velasquez is solely about improving the Padres’ odds of grabbing a Wild Card spot this year. Both players joined the organization after August 31 and would be ineligible for postseason play. They each have enough service time to qualify for free agency again this winter. So they’re both being brought in for the next three weeks only, with San Diego trying to outplay the Cardinals, Reds, Phillies and Mets for the National League’s final postseason spot. St. Louis is in pole position, holding a half-game advantage over Cincinnati and a one-game lead on the Padres.